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Late yesterday afternoon, 12/14, I stopped off at Daytona Beach Shores and found 5  1st cycle Franklin's Gulls among a very large group of 10-15,000 Laughing Gulls. It was surprising to find that many this late in the year. Usually by mid-December the Franklin's Gulls have left. This makes 81 Franklin's Gulls that I have seen in Volusia County this year, by far the most I have ever seen. Last year I only had about 40, and that was an unusually high number. Interestingly, the great majority of these birds were seen before the big push of Franklin's Gulls hit the northeast U.S. coast in mid-November. 


The birds were found in the large gull flock that stretched from just south of Frank Rendon Park south for about 1/2 mile. The number of Ring-billed Gulls has increased dramatically, and small numbers of Herring Gulls were also in the group. It appears that the gull flocks are beginning to take their normal winter arrangement. The Laughing Gulls begin to congregate in small groups all along the Daytona Beach Shores coast throughout the fall. About mid-December, they seem to get more concentrated to the area near Frank Rendon Park and the numbers greatly increase and the Ring-billed Gulls arrive in force. The large gulls tend to stay near Ponce de Leon Inlet throughout the Fall. Later, as winter begins the large gulls also seem to join the masses in Daytona Beach Shores. By January, the huge flocks of 60,000+ gulls are in full swing. It is important to note that this amazing congregation of gulls takes place at Daytona Beach Shores in the late afternoon. The gulls forage all day, offshore, in the rivers and especially at the Landfill, then they roost on the beach at Daytona Beach Shores in the late afternoon beginning about 2 hours before sunset and continuing until just before dark. As it is getting dark, all of the gulls fly off the beach and land on the ocean just beyond the breakers to spend the night. This is the largest regularly occurring congregation of gulls on any beach in the United States.
 
On another note, very large groups of Black Skimmers can be found at Ponce de Leon Inlet. I had over 1,000 on the beach at the base of the north jetty yesterday morning and we had at least 1,600 or more during a shorebird survey yesterday throughout the Inlet area. 


Michael


Michael Brothers
Marine Science Center
Ponce Inlet, FL

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